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For or against, no one wants to see 'Satanic Islam' sermon pastor James McConnell end up in jail

By Chris McCullough

Published 20/06/2015

Hazel Devine
Hazel Devine

Support for Pastor James McConnell remains strong in the area near the church where he made his controversial sermon.

The majority of people who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph in north Belfast said the pastor should be free to say what he wants and should not be disciplined just because he spoke his own mind.

William Letson resides very close to the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle. He backed the pastor and encouraged him not to back down.

Mr Letson said: "Everyone should have the right to say what they want. We have freedom of speech and we should be allowed to practise it without fear.

"I think Pastor McConnell was all the braver for standing up for his beliefs and saying what he thought.

"It's similar to the Ashers bakery case, where they were prosecuted for going against their personal beliefs.

"When will this all stop? The world is going crazy with regard to all this sort of thing."

Joan Kyle helps run a local shop on Donegall Park Avenue. She also backed the minister. "Pastor McConnell is a good Christian man and is entitled to say what he believes.

"He knew what he was saying and is not the type of man to make a mistake.

"There is no way he should face any type of conviction and definitely should not go to prison.

"He was speaking what he believed and why should anyone be prosecuted for that?"

Hazel Devine and her daughter Alex both said the pastor was incorrect in what he said.

Hazel said: "Pastor McConnell is not above the rest of us. What he said was entirely wrong. Locking him up will do him no good at all.

"He knew exactly what he was saying. He lives in a world where a lot of people hang on every word he does say.

"It is really difficult to achieve a balance of free speech these days.

"But people need to remember Pastor McConnell was speaking in his position of work."

Local resident Jim Thompson agreed the pastor should not face prison.

"I feel that no one should criticise anyone else's religion.

"The pastor is not adverse to controversy but, although I think he should be pulled for what he said, I don't think prison is the right punishment here."

Rosemary Martin, also from north Belfast, also supported freedom of speech.

She said: "I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech but the pastor should have been a bit more careful what he said in a public place.

"I think he should be censored but I don't think he should go to prison for what he said."

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